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Pakistan Debrief: What worked and what didn't

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My one month trip to the Karakoram during summer 2015 could loosely be regarded as a success in that we climbed three small summits, two of which were first ascents. We had planned bigger objectives prior to the trip and we also fell short in this respect. The trip as a whole was far from being problem free and all too easily it could have been a disaster. There were lots of factors involved so I thought it was worth writing about some of the problems we experienced as well as things that worked well. As much as a reminder to myself for future trips. The original trip report is here for anybody interested.


Porters

Lack of porters at the trail head in Passu was our first problem, which I had not anticipated away from the Baltoro region. It has been ten years since I last hired porters in Pakistan and maybe the numbers have dropped off because of the lack of visitors. Maybe we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. A local cricket match apparently depleted availability but I…

Den republikanske terroristen (n5+), Skogshorn

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Our first attempt to climb Den republikanske terroristen didn't get further than the top of the second pitch. There was far too much wind together with strong gusts, which only increased with height. The wind was coming from a WSW Direction from which there was little shelter on our south face. Despite the twenty degree temperature, and adders basking on the slopes beneath Skogshorn, I still needed three layers in order to keep warm.

I led the first pitch, which weaved around initially before popping out on easy angled broken slabs. Normally I would scamper easily up this sort of slabby terrain, primarily using my feet with my hands merely an accessory, however the high winds caused me to over-grip and climb in a slower, static fashion. Often I needed to wait for the winds to drop before making the simplest of moves.

I was fully expecting Anna to suggest that we bail at the top of the first pitch and I was more resigned to agree. Smaller climbers definitely have a bigger say in …

Tøftfossen (WI4), Drivdalen

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Despite seven days climbing in Oppdal I still hadn't climbed the classic Tøftfossen. I had planned to climb it with Anna two years ago but the cornice at the top of the route had looked massive from the valley and so we aborted a short way into the approach. On this occasion the problematic cornice was reportedly passable and with a perfect forecast the day looked ideally suited to something a little more alpine in character. Plus with Rick having travelled all the way from the UK we needed to justify the journey time with a big classic.

The only thing not ideally suited was the avalanche forecast. Or at least the avalanche forecast that I was reading. Troms warned of windslab but this was of course is not the correct fylke for Oppdal. Fortunately rational thinking trumped my poor geography and thus we went to take a closer look. After all everything in the recent weather pattern suggested snow consolidation. No wind, no snow, freeze/thaw temperatures, and plenty of sunshine. It w…

Slate Quarry Climbing... Norwegian Style

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With temperatures warming up it seemed an ideal time to make my first trip to Drivdalen this season, where the high elevation would hopefully yield some good late season conditions. My friend Rick was visiting from the UK for the weekend. We have a history of driving from London to the Scottish Highlands and back in a weekend so Oslo to Oppdal would hopefully be easy by comparison.

Saturday's plan was the slate quarries at Klevan, which had ice for the first time since I had moved to Norway nearly three years ago. A quick exploration of the place revealed some eye-catching lines, some of which were a blend of ice and mixed. Some were not sufficiently formed but there were plenty of routes that were.

Rick was only starting to get back into climbing after years of ultra-marathon running so the harder lines could wait for another day. Despite being primarily a single pitch crag it didn't feel like 'cragging' as most of the routes were a full rope length and with plenty o…

Rjukan Part 2: Verdens Ende (WI5)

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The only WI5 that I had yet to climb in Upper Gorge was Verdens Ende, so this was Plan A for Sunday. Plan B was something nearby that was free of climbers.

We opted to abseil part way into the western end of the gorge due to the unpleasant combination of powder snow concealing sporadic sections of hard ice on the descent. The last time that I had descended this way was following the fatal accident on Lipton in 2015 and it was difficult not think back to that terrible day. I had no interest in returning to the rocks beneath the climb where we had made futile attempts to save the Italian climber's life.

This end of the gorge felt a world apart from the climbing busyness at the Vermork end with not a footprint to be seen. Rjukanfossen looked fat but Lipton was almost entirely absent of ice. Verdens Ende had seen better days with the ice on the first pitch looking eroded and hollowed out in the middle section. The route looked as though it had suffered some major thaws without the ri…